Today's Readings: 1 Samuel 10 | Isaiah 54 | Revelation 17-18
Reading 1 - 1Sa 10:21,22
"Finally Saul son of Kish was chosen. But when they looked for him, he was not to be found. So they inquired further of the LORD, 'Has the man come here yet?' And the LORD said, 'Yes, he has hidden himself among the baggage' " (1Sa 10:21,22).
"God answers Israel's request by appointing them their first human king, Saul. However, when the people came to make him king, they could not find him. The Scripture tells us that God had to tell the people, 'Behold, he hath hid himself among the stuff' (AV). The future king of Israel had answered God's call for service by hiding himself among the baggage.
"How many of us answer God's call by hiding among the stuff?
"When it comes to stuff, my family has plenty. We have so much stuff, that we can't even store it all. We have an attic, a garage and several closets full of stuff. Once or twice a year, we have to go though all the stuff so we can give some of the stuff away to people who don't have enough stuff of their own.
"Yet, despite our abundance of stuff, we seem to accumulate more and more stuff. The thought of having to move sends shivers down my spine because I am not sure if they have a moving van big enough to carry all of our stuff.
"Saul was a fairly big man. The Bible says 'he was head and shoulders taller than any of them'. Yet, he found enough stuff among his family to hide himself so thoroughly that only God could find him. I look around my house and see I have enough stuff to hide a small army.
"Now, besides bemoaning my ever shrinking living space, there is a point to all of this. Stuff is a distraction. There can come a point in life when we do not own our possessions, but our possessions 'own' us. What I mean is that taking care of so much stuff has a huge price. We all need food, shelter and clothing. These blessings from God take care of us. Yet, after the initial benefit of having our basic needs taken care of, we keep going to the point where we spend all of our time taking care of or acquiring more stuff. Then, after we get the stuff, we have to work a little harder so we can insure the stuff so we don't ever lose it. It takes so much out of us to acquire the stuff and maintain it, that the stuff eventually owns us. We find that the primary cost of stuff is our valuable time and energy...
"All of this has made me come to realize in a more tangible way that the only stuff that matters is the stuff we can take into the Kingdom with us. It is not the house or the car or the club membership or the swimming pool that matters, but our relationship with God and Jesus Christ, our family, our brethren and our friends. These things we can take into the Kingdom with us to enjoy for eternity.
"King Saul answered God's call by hiding among the stuff. Yet, God saw him. We too can hide ourselves from God among our stuff. But make no mistake about it... He sees us hiding there" (Kyle Tucker).
Reading 2 - Isa 54:9-11
" 'To me this is like the days of Noah, when I swore that the waters of Noah would never again cover the earth. So now I have sworn not to be angry with you, never to rebuke you again. Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,' says the LORD, who has compassion on you. 'O afflicted city, lashed by storms and not comforted, I will build you with stones of turquoise, your foundations with sapphires" (Isa 54:9-11).
The reference to the days of Noah suggests the Assyrian invasion was like the Flood! (Isa 8:7,8; 17:12). Then Jerusalem was the only "ark" of safety (Isa 1:7,8). There, at Passover, Judah was saved (cp Isa 26:20,21), whilst all about there was death.
Jerusalem, lashed by the storms, surviving (but just barely!) the "flood" of the Assyrian army (v 9).
And then, in one of those breath-taking figurative leaps which the prophet Isaiah seems to enjoy, the ship of salvation, tossed by the tempest, is all at once transformed into a beautiful temple, adorned with precious stones!
"It is no wonder, when we consider the part gems play in the glory of man and the pleasure they give to him when he feasts his eye upon their glory and the riot of colour, that the Creator of this earth with all its treasures takes hold of that which constitutes its radiance and glory and teaches by it a lesson. A perfected gemstone in its relation to light is a fitting symbol of that relationship that will obtain when the living gemstones, gathered from among the peoples of the earth, shall ornament the earth with the charm of colour and beauty that they are to reflect from the Sun of Righteousness, whom God has formed to be His light bearer to the sons of men. To them, during the painful time of their cutting and polishing, the symbol -- when understood -- will bring a message of hope, and patience and comfort, the requisites required to sustain them during the trial" (Wright).
Reading 3 - Rev 17:1
"Come, I will show you the punishment of the great prostitute, who sits on many waters" (Rev 17:1).
To begin with, there is a plain connection with the woman of Rev 12, who can rather easily be identified with Israel:
The sun, moon, and stars (12:1) are frequent Bible symbols of Israel (Gen 37:9,10; 22:17; Jer 31:35,36; Amos 8:9; Mic 3:6; Isa 60:20; Joel 2:10,30,31; 3:15; Psa 89:35-36).
The son whom she bears, who rules the nations, is Jesus (Rev 19:15; cp Psa 2:9; 110:2)... not Constantine!
The dragon's attempts to kill the baby Jesus (Mat 2:1-6) are shown in Rev 12:4.
After the birth of the special child, the "woman" (Israel) flees into the wilderness (Rev 12:6,14) = the dispersion of Israel.
Later, the same woman (or so it would seem) appears already "in the wilderness" (Rev 17:1-3), where she had fled earlier, but now she is a harlot, drastically changed!
And she is riding on a beast! At first glance, the beast seems to be "Babylon", doesn't it? Because the whole system described in Daniel, of which Babylon was the head, is easily equated with the 7 heads (the number of the heads of the 4 beasts in Dan 7), and ten horns (equates with 10 toes of image in Dan 2).
But it is the woman who has the name of "Babylon" written on her forehead (Rev 17:5). So will the real Babylon please stand up? Is it the beast, or the woman, or both?
I would suggest, it is both, in this sense: The beast is truly the Latter Day Babylon (read Iraq, or some similar Middle East coalition of Arab nations bent on the promotion of Islam, the conquest of Jerusalem, and the destruction of Judaism).
And the woman is "Babylon", but in a different sense. She has the name of Babylon tattooed on her forehead! She is now the SLAVE of Babylon, being marked by him on her forehead (cp Rev 13:16). (By contrast, and by way of explanation, the servants, or slaves, of God are marked on their foreheads with the name of the Father and the Son: Rev 7:3; 2:17; 14:1; Eze 9:4).
But, from Rev 12, we have seen that the "woman" has a strong connection with Israel. And she is still Israel, but only the subset of Israel which has gone over to the enemy. She has given up being the handmaid of God, and has become the slave of Babylon. And now she is, along with Babylon proper, a fierce persecutor of the saints, apostles, and prophets of God (the revived witnesses among Israel in the Last Days -- who are described in Rev 11 as perishing in Jerusalem).
How could this have happened? How could Israel be a party to the persecution of its own citizens? Perhaps like this: As a result of its defeat by Babylon and the 10 (Arab) kings in the Last Days, the nation of Israel has now become differentiated into two totally disparate elements: the faithful remnant who bear the mark of God and His Son, and the unfaithful harlot who bear the mark of Babylon -- who see their main chance, their only chance in selling their birthright and allying themselves with the loathsome enemy so as to receive a share of the Beast's power. These powers the harlot uses, to the best of her ability, to persecute her own countrymen, the faithful remnant, the true Jewish believers who have developed in her midst.
This scenario looks remarkably like two other familiar situations: (a) Israel in the first century, where the Jewish leadership (Herod and the high priest class) collaborated with the Roman overlords (Pilate, etc) to persecute the faithful Jewish believers in their midst; and (b) on a more secular level, the German-puppet Vichy government of occupied France during World War II.
So what happens to the Israel "woman" riding on the Babylonian "beast"? Things go well for her... but only for a while... then she loses her seat of power, is cast down to the ground, and devoured by the Babylonian beast: "The beast and the ten horns you saw will hate the prostitute. They will bring her to ruin and leave her naked; they will eat her flesh and burn her with fire" (Rev 17:16). Because she is, after all, only so many more detestable Jews... and Jewish collaborators are perhaps even more to be detested than other Jews by the Muslim Arabs after they have fulfilled some kind of initial usefulness.
It may be added that there is another interesting Scriptural connection along these lines, and it has to do with the harlot "Jezebel" introduced earlier in the Revelation (Rev 2:20-24). The original (OT) Jezebel was a Gentile (an Arab!) and an idolater and a false prophetess who married into Israel (king Ahab), and who used her high position to promote immorality and to persecute God's true followers (like Elijah) among her "countrymen"! What better name, then, for an Arab-Israeli composite "harlot" persecutor of the righteous Jewish remnant in the Last Days? (Notice how clearly Elijah is delineated in Rev 11, for example.) (And notice, also, how the Last Days "Jezebel" is eaten by wild beasts just like her OT namesake was eaten by dogs!)